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Speaking at the China Iron and Steel Assn's annual general meeting this week, newly-elected Cisa chairman Zhang Guangning, urged members to specialise and improve their competitiveness so as to establish a solid foundation for the next round of development.

“China's steel production has peaked and is reaching a plateau. In other words, it has come to a turning point where it must shift from focusing on quantity to quality,” he said. “At present, although the industry is in its most difficult period, it is also the best time to upgrade and transform itself and adapt to the new economic development."

China is in the midst of shifting focus from exports to domestic consumption to drive growth.

Zhang, who is also chairman of Anshan Iron and Steel Group, has been appointed as chairman of Cisa for 2015. He replaces Xu Lejiang, chairman of Baosteel, whose term had expired.

China exported a record 10 million tonnes of finished steel in December, as Chinese mills rushed to conclude as many deals as possible to beat the deadline of a tax rebate removal on boron-added steel exports scheduled for the start of this year.

While the country has taken some measure to deal with its overcapacity through the recent cancellation of export rebates on boron-added steel, the move did little to stop steel prices in Asia from falling.

Many market participants viewed the move as more a step towards minimising trade friction with trading partner countries than making a real effort in reining in tonnages.